Call it a homecoming of sorts. For years the Scrimmage Play belt — a tawdry toy wrestling prop with a bumper sticker on it that that serves as a travelling trophy that passes from Jefferson District foe to Jefferson District foe — could not be wrangled from Monticello’s hands starting in 2012. But that era is long in the rear view, so much so that former players who constantly held it like Kianna Scott and Cierra Hall are now assistant coaches for the Mustangs now.
Well after years of rebuilding the program and for the first time since 2015, it’s back in the Mustangs hands. Monticello reclaimed it after a 61-48 win over Fluvanna County thanks to strong showing in the rebounding department and a late surge in the fourth to keep the Flucos at bay.
“The biggest thing was not folding,” said Monticello coach Juwanna Smith. “We couldn’t let (Fluvanna) get us down there in the fourth. We just had to know that there was still a lot of time and take our time and pick it up and get back in our game.”
With the win on Wednesday night, the Mustangs (7-3) equaled their win total from last year. And while the first few minutes started out tough, save from a four minute run in the fourth quarter that saw things get really tight, the Mustangs held a substantial lead. And with Tianna Kinlaw going off in the back half of the fourth quarter with 11 of her 19 points, Monticello was able pick up a quality win.
“We just believed in ourselves and we knew we wanted to go home with this belt,” Kinlaw said. “We just wanted to show that we’re a better team and that we want to win.”
Fluvanna started the first quarter off with a 3-pointer from Destini Monroe and a steal and layup from Kia Scott to make it 5-0. Monticello responded with a pair of buckets from Camille Blaine and got 3-pointers from Hannah Shifflett and Dasha Kinlaw to lead the way to a 12-10 lead going into the second.
“We had a rough start but I just had to let them dig themselves out of it versus panicking and yelling,” Smith said. “We just told them what little things they needed to fix and for the most part, you do that and this team takes that and runs with it. They fix it and we go from there.”
Another shot from beyond the arc allowed the Mustangs to claim a 17-10 lead early in the second quarter. While the Flucos struggled with Nevaeh Ivory in foul trouble, on the other end a three pointer from Tianna Kinlaw followed by an and-1 from Dasha Kinlaw made it 23-13 for Monticello with just under four minutes until the break. The Mustangs went into halftime with a 27-15 lead.
With a 5-2 start to the third thanks to some free throw shooting, Monticello went up by 15 in the opening minutes of the frame. Fluvanna was able to respond with Ivory and to make it a 10-point contest midway through the third.
Things stood there until the fourth when the Flucos made a big surge behind Ivory inside, Scott from outside and some free throw shooting inbetween to make it a 4-point game in the middle of the fourth quarter.
“The effort was there but we just didn’t make free throws,” said Fluvanna coach Chad White. “We just got to fight and grind it out when shots aren’t falling and keep playing and see what happens. But you know it’s really hats off to them, Monticello played a heck of a game. They played hard and out executed us at the end.”
Monticello didn’t flounder though. Tianna Kinlaw took over the last half of the fourth to give her team a double digit lead again. And when Blaine came through with an and-1 in the last minute of the fourth, the game was put out of reach.
“It feels wonderful,” Tianna Kinlaw said. “(Having the belt) it’s a honor and just good toshow for Monticello that we are actually a good basketball team.”
On the night, Tianna Kinlaw led the way with 19 points to go with three assists and three steals. Dasha Kinlaw finished with 15 points, 13 rebounds, three blocks and three steals. Shifflett had a 11 points and a huge night defensively with 10 rebounds, six blocks and three steals. So too did Blaine who had 16 points and a game high 17 rebounds and three blocks.
For Fluvanna, Scott led the offense with 18 points. Ivory had nine points. While the Flucos got 15 points at the charity stripe, they were 15-for-31 at the line.
And with the belt changing hands from Western Albemarle to Fluvanna and now to Monticello, White has a simple message about what is a Jefferson District simply even across the board.
“I keep telling everyone, this is how it’s going to be,” White said. “Everyone is scrappy and playing hard. It’s really just going to come down to every night, who is making shots, who is playing hard.”
Monticello hosts Louisa County on Friday while Fluvanna County travels to Albemarle, both at 7:30 p.m.